Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kokoschka, Oskar

The Tempest; The Bride of the Wind (Die Windsbraut)
Oil on canvas
181 x 220 cm (71.1/4 x 86.5/8 in.)
Kunstmuseum Basel, Germany

Oskar Kokoschka (1886 – 1980) was an Austrian painter, illustrator, poet, and playwright, who is credited with founding Expressionist drama, best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes. He is the third in the great trio of Viennese artists (Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele), and the one whose reputation is currently hardest to assess. On the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered to join the cavalry. While on patrol, he was machine-gunned and bayoneted but was eventually rescued. As an artist Kokoschka started to gain international fame in the 1920. In the Nazi Germany his works were banned by the authorities, and mocked as examples of degenerate art. Kokoschka's last years were somewhat embittered, as he found himself marginalized as a curious footnote to art history.

Kokoschka had a passionate, often stormy affair with Alma Mahler (widow of composer Gustav Mahler). After several years together, Alma rejected him, explaining that she was afraid of being too overcome with passion. He continued to love her his entire life, and this self-portrait, one of his greatest works, is a tribute to her, expressing his unrequited love for Alma Mahler.